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Pet Sins November 2006

Uche Amazigo - public health champion engaging communities in the fight against river blindness

Dr Uche Amazigo of Nigeria came from humble beginnings as a chauffeur's daughter, but rose to obtain a PhD in public health and become a Senior Lecturer in Medical Parasitology and Public Health at the University of Nigeria. She earned international recognition for her leadership in establishing a highly successful community-based river-blindness control program serving remote villages in many African nations.

As chief of the Sustainable Drug Distribution Unit, African Onchocerciasis Control, WHO Regional Office for Africa in Burkina Faso, Dr Amazigo was faced with the problem of how to treat a disease which affects 12 African nations but which is largely confined to remote, inaccessible rural villages. The parasitic disease could blind 40% of the adults in a community, but health agencies did not have the resources to make the difficult yearly treks to dispense the drug Mectizan in villages beyond the reach of road access. Dr Uche Amazigo devised a plan of training volunteers to distribute medicine in their local villages, personally overseeing a massive education and outreach effort. The program has succeeded admirably - river blindness has dropped sharply in Africa, and Dr Amazigo's distribution plan is now used to deliever Mectizan to more tan 40 million people in 34 countries and to more than 60,000 villages worldwide.

For more on Dr Amazigo's work, see

Rx for Survival: Global Health Champions - Uche Amazigo, PhD, World Health Organization, African Program for Onchocerciasis Control (pbs.org)

Promoting gender sensitivity in community-directed tropical disease control programmes: the case of onchocerciasis )(Presentation by Dr Uche Amazigo in Tanzania in November 2002)

United Nations - Division for the Advancement of Women - Biographies - Uche Amazigo, Nigeria

Women's Health and Tropical Diseases: A focus on Africa (paper by Dr. Uche Amazigo)